Amazon.com is set to roll out its much anticipatedÂ Kindle e-book reader on MondayÂ kindling hopes that at least this time e-books will take off.
Early reports suggest that Kindle will include a Wi-Fi connection to let consumers connect to Amazon’s e-book store and buy electronic books.
Priced at $399, the Kindle device is also supposed to include a headphone jack for audio-books and let consumers access content from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Le Monde.
The first generation of e-book devices had to be connected to a computer to download the electronic books.
The short history of e-books – digital versions of printed books that display on specialized reading devices or on PCs and laptops – is littered with a string of failures that includes both big names and small startups.
So far, only 100,000 e-book readers are said to have been sold in North America.
Readers of this blog with long memories may remember that in the late 1990s several companies includingÂ Microsoft, SoftBook, Librius, Glassbook, EveryBookÂ and NuvoMedia threw their hats in the e-book arena but none of them made much headway.
At the world’s first e-book conference in October 1998, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg (Maryland),Â Microsoft, Bertelsmann, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Time-Warner Books, Barnesandnoble.com, Hitachi, Audible, EveryBook, Glassbook, Librius, NuvoMedia and SoftBook even agreed to collaborate on a common set of file specifications called Open eBook standard so that a title could be read on all machines adhering to these standards without reformatting the titles for each machine.
Sony joined the e-book fray later – and is still peddling an e-book reader – but like the others its effortsÂ too has failed to gain critical mass.
The first generation of e-book readers failed because of multiple reasons – they were too expensive, too bulky and had limited content.
In 1998 as Microsoft was investing its resources in the nascent e-book business, Bill Gates declared:
There is no question that eventually electronic books will share the spotlight with books printed on paper.
But nine years later, e-books have yet to share the spotlight with printed books and it’s safe to say that the $35 billion-a-year printed book business is in no danger of an early demise.
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